ASIO secures 'top secret' documents from ABC offices

ASIO officers secured thousands of sensitive government cabinet documents at ABC offices in Canberra and Brisbane.

The papers left in the office - but not included with the sold filing cabinets - included Middle East defense plans, national security briefs, Afghan war updates, intelligence on Australia's neighbors and details of counterterrorism operations.

"They should have remained secret for 20 years but have become public because they were left in two locked filing cabinets that were sold at an ex-government furniture sale in Canberra", it added. The were subsequenrly obtained by the ABC.

One document refers to an audit that revealed that the Australian Federal Police had lost nearly 400 national security files over five years ending 2013.

Later, the buyer broke the locks and found thousands of official documents that were eventually handed over to the ABC, which named the treasure as the "Cabinet Files".

As a justification to why they have chosen to publish some of the files, the ABC said that national security and the inner workings of our government affect the lives of all Australians. "Given that the investigation is underway, it is not appropriate for the department to comment further at this time".

The ABC began publishing parts of the files this week, revealing the embarrassing inner workings of government - and, today, reporting that the trove of documents also include references to at least two other previously unknown breaches, in which hundreds more secret and sensitive documents were either lost or left unsupervised.

The files reveal former finance minister Penny Wong left almost 200 top-secret papers in her old office when her government was voted out in 2013, including Middle East defence plans, national security briefs and updates on the war in Afghanistan.

Senator Wong said in a statement she had been unaware of the matter until the ABC report.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the person responsible for losing the documents will have serious questions to answer. "The files were secured in a government safe that the ABC has access to", she Tweeted.

Another paper reveals that Tony Abbott ignored legal advice when handing over insulation Royal Commission documents.

The cabinets and their contents were bought "for small change" in a sale that could have been made to anyone, the network says.

Chief among the documents' revelations is that Australia's former immigration minister, Scott Morrison - who is now Australia's treasurer - authorized his Immigration Department in 2013 to ask domestic security agency ASIO to delay security checks on asylum-seekers after he was told that 700 people had to be granted permanent protection under Australian law.

  • Latoya Cobb